Wind farm may blow more than it's worth

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2006, 12:00am

The mega wind farm that a British company proposes building off Sai Kung might cost as much as $2.8 billion and supply only 0.7 per cent of the city's electricity needs, a source says.

The proposal was cautiously received by green groups, which said that while it would help kick-start a real commercial renewable energy project, a detailed analysis of its costs and environmental benefits was needed to gauge its effectiveness.

The South China Morning Post yesterday reported British wind energy company Wind Prospect was finalising its feasibility study into building up to 50 offshore wind turbines, each of 3-4MW capacity, in the Ninepin islands, supplying power to the residents of Tseung Kwan O.

Although the company declined to offer an estimate on the cost, a source said it could be as much as $2.8 billion, excluding any land costs that were imposed by the government.

The source also said the project could be one of the largest offshore wind farm projects in the world and the biggest in Asia. But the total generation capacity could meet only 0.7 per cent of the city's needs.

'The firm has done quite a lot of advance work on the windmill locations, possible impacts on navigation and marine ecology and even how and where it could be connected to the power grid of CLP Power,' the source said.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Gloria Chang Wan-kei supported the initiative, saying it could encourage CLP Power and Hongkong Electric to step up investment in renewable energy. 'The two companies have the most financial resources to do it and yet they don't,' she said.

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, environmental affairs manager of Friends of the Earth, said Wind Prospect's study showed there was potential for the city to do more for renewable energy. But he urged the company to come up with more financial details of the project, adding that a wind farm on the mainland could be far more cost-efficient.

Under the proposed electricity market reform, investment on renewable energy would be rewarded with a permitted return of up to 11 per cent.

Wind Prospect could not be reached for comment.